One hundred tiny homes grace the walls of the Island Mountain Arts (IMA) Gallery right now. The colouful linocut prints invite us to think about what a home is and what exactly it means.
The houses are the work of Mo Hamilton, an interdisciplinary artist from Prince George who actually has spent a lot of time in Wells.
Hamilton’s exhibition, which opened Jan. 25 and runs until March 10, presents the completion of her three-year art project. The 100 Houses Project: Reflections on our Times features 100 linocut prints that explore the theme of what home means and tell a story of how humans adapt to changes, whether they are by displacement from political upheaval, forest fires, climate change or economics, according to the exhibition program. Hamilton is influenced by notions of displacement, resulting from frequent moves to and from numerous Canadian communities over the past decade.
“In my lifetime, I have a twin sister, and we moved to Victoria together when we left home, and she has stayed in Victoria and hasn’t moved, but I’ve moved several times,” said Hamilton. “I have a lot of moves, and even as a kid, we moved a lot … it’s interesting because with each move, you think you have this life in the community you are moving from, and you think you will transport it to the community you are moving to, but in reality, that doesn’t happen. You almost have to reinvent yourself with each move. I think The 100 Houses Project is a lot about that — it’s about how humans experience change and how we adapt to that change.”
The 100 Houses Project started when Hamilton was moving from Castlegar to Terrace.
“My husband was already in Terrace, we packed all our belongings, and we were sleeping on the floor in our house, and the next day, we were going to pack up the station wagon,” she said. “That night, I had a dream I was living in a house on a bridge. Really, I had one foot in Castlegar, but I was moving on. I felt it was really a profound dream and that I wasn’t really in Castlegar anymore even though I was, but I wasn’t in Terrace yet. I had this sense the house was a representation of me. If you look up houses in a dream, like our skin and our body is a case for our souls, the house is the same in a dream — it’s basically a representation of your soul, your sense of self.”
While in Wells for the exhibition opening, Hamilton facilitated two workshops for the community — a Children’s Block Printing Workshop for the students who attend Wells-Barkerville Elementary School on Jan. 25 and a Block Printing on Fabric and Surface Design weekend workshop Jan. 26 and 27.
“It was really fun at the little school in Wells, and the teacher there is really lovely,” said Hamilton. “Each kid did their own 16×16 fabric with the theme of home and house, which relates to the show in Wells. Normally, I use a substance that’s like a lino, but because there are a variety of ages at the school, we used Styrofoam instead. Each kid made their own house and printed it on fabric.”
Hamilton, who has lived in Prince George for 14 years, has a strong connection with IMA and Wells.
“When I moved to the north, I applied to be accepted into the Tony Onley Artist Project, and I got a full bursary for a nine-day mentorship,” she said. “I have done a couple mentorships now. I’ve also gone to visit Bill [Horne] and Claire [Kujundzic] and worked in their studio. The first couple of houses that I created, I created in Wells, so it seems kind of cool that it is the first place I’ll be showing [The 100 Houses Project].”
This fall, Hamilton and four other artists from Telkwa, Smithers and Prince Rupert came to Wells for a five-day self-directed art retreat, and they stayed in IMA’s artist-in-residence building, The Nest.
”It was really fun,” said Hamilton. “I decided it would be so fun to gather a group of artists, and we could mentor each other. We spent the days painting then spent the evening creating goals for ourselves, and we looked at everyone’s websites. I felt like it was a really positive and encouraging experience. We were all there to help each other.”
Hamilton finds a lot of inspiration in Wells.
“There’s something about it being tucked away in the mountains,” she said. “It’s interesting because I just drove there, and I had in my mind that it was so far away, but in reality, it isn’t. It has that feel of going far away. It removes you from your daily obligations. It just gives me an opportunity to really focus on my art and let go of other distractions.”
The 100 Houses Project exhibition will remain at the IMA Gallery at 2323 Pooley St. in Wells until March 10. When she comes to take down her exhibition in March, Hamilton will work with the Wells-Barkerville Elementary School students once again, and the students’ work will be shown in the IMA Gallery for nearly three weeks in March. The exhibition closing on April 27 will feature a live auction for the students’ artwork to raise money for the school.
Hamilton’s 100 Houses Project will also be shown at the Two Rivers Gallery in Prince George, beginning March 21.